[FOUNTAIN]Showing your colors

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[FOUNTAIN]Showing your colors

Today is Flag Day in the United States. It's not a national holiday in my homeland, not like Memorial Day or the Fourth of July. Rather, it's more of a day of casual observance, a time to hang the Stars and Stripes from the front porch, which many Americans have been doing since Sept. 11.

Today I am hoping that Korea joins the United States in its flag waving to salute advancement in the World Cup. Both countries deserve to rejoice together and their moving forward in that event would be a great reason to celebrate.

On Wednesday, as every United States citizen should, I took a tour of the demilitarized zone or DMZ. Big flags and little flags are in abundance along both sides of the DMZ. That's not so strange.

What is strange is that in the history classes I sat through in U.S. public schools and at the state university that I currently attend, the Korean War is barely mentioned. Today, everyone talks of World War II and the Greatest Generation or Vietnam, which has sparked a generation of movies. Meanwhile, the Korean War is the forgotten war.

At the DMZ I saw how the United States and the Republic of Korea's armies are working together -- 60 percent Korean, 40 percent American -- to maintain a strong border, while providing hope that one day North Korea will recognize the need for reunification and help make that happen.

A Korean student who has done his military service recently told me that he had once heard Korea spoken of as America's 51st state. We both thought that term was wrong and agreed that South Korea is powerful enough to survive on its own. The U.S. military presence here is due to North Korea's unpredictability.

While I was touring Camp Bonifas, a military installation along the DMZ, I was asked by a Seoul television crew for my thoughts on the political situation between the two Koreas in light of the World Cup. I said I wasn't optimistic that North Korea would come out of its shell, and sensed the relationship between South and North would remain at a standstill.

It is sad to consider, but I truly believe that North Korea will never admit that it has been wrong about communism, which surely doesn't do much in terms of personal happiness. I do think, however, that the relationship between the United States and South Korea will improve.

To better that relationship, schools everywhere -- in the United States as well as in Korea -- should put much more emphasis on teaching students about a war that claimed millions of lives.

The writer is a contributor to the JoongAng Ilbo English Edition.

by Carson K. Smith

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